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February 24, 2013

Movie Review: Lisa and the Devil (1974, Blu-ray)

Review by: Rob Sibley

Note: This is a Region B encoded Blu-ray. You will need an all region player to view this disk.

“Lisa and the Devil” is to me one of Mario Bava's lesser appreciated films. This film is strictly a mood piece. Normal narrative and pacing goes out the window and what were treated to is a highly surrealistic vision of a master at work.

The film became possible when Bava's “Baron of blood” was a rousing success. His producing partner at the time Alfred Leone gave Bava caret-blanch to make the picture he wanted to do. That film was Bava's most personal film, Lisa And The Devil.

Bava drew on influences from all over the place. Ranging from Krafft Ebing's novel (and dated) study on sexuality and fetishism “Psychopathia Sexualis”. Even Dostoyevsky's novel The Devils or the Demons played influence on Bava. The surrealistic mood of the works of H.P. Lovecraft have also been cited as inspirations for Mr. Bava.

The film starts out with the truly beautiful Elke Sommer as Lisa. A tourist on holiday in Spain. Admiring a piece of artwork painted on a wall of the devil no less. She hears a sound and is soon enough walking the tight cobble stoned streets. She enters a small room to discover Leandro (Played with glee by Telly Savalas) looming over a manikin. Lenardo's resemblance to the devil painted on the wall seen earlier freaks Lisa out. She goes running out of the building and is soon lost. That is until an unhappy couple with car trouble offer Lisa a lift.

They eventually wind up at an old mansion and murder and madness soon follows. Author Alan Jones says in the introduction to the film, “In many ways the plot really doesn't matter”. Which is true for this film. As Jones also points out this film is a “visual mood piece”. The entire film has a haunting dream like quality to it. This film has Bava at his most creative, creating a head scratching but none the less fascinating film.

The acting from our two leads is excellent. Elke Sommer's is nothing short of the embodiment of pure sex and beauty in her role as Lisa. She tackles her role with much gusto and plays it with a very child like innocence and doll like frailty.

The true scene stealer is Telly Savalas as the mysterious Leondro. Your never quite sure what he's up too or what he's going to do next. Special mention should also be given to composer Carlo Savina who creates one of the more memorable Italian scores of the 70's.

This film is nearly impossible to fully explain, it's a picture you much view yourself. But if you are a Bava fan or even a Elk Sommer's fan then this film is for you.

Also included on this Blu-ray release is the alternative (American) cut of the film “The House of Exorcism”. Which is an odd one to say the least. When Lisa and The Devil was taken to the Cannes film festival it failed to find distribution. Sadly no-one but the master Bava himself saw the genius in the film. So producer Alfredo Leone decided to tinker with the film. The Exorcist had just came out and was a huge hit world wide so “Lisa and the devil” was re-shot and re-edited and retitled to The House of Exorcism. Both films couldn't be more different. House of Exorcism comes off exactly like you'd imagine it would, which is a poorly edited and rushed into production exorcist rip off. While the original cut Lisa and The Devil couldn't be any different.

It's fascinating to view both cuts of the film but Lisa and the devil is the one to watch. House of exorcism is an interesting “film” to view because it's certainly an oddity to see a wonderful film re-shot into something dreadful.

Arrow UK's 1080P transfers for both cuts look outstanding. The colors are vibrant, a solid grain structure is still intact and details are present. Often the film has a soft look to it but it was obviously intentional to the films dream like quality.

Both English and Italian audio tracks are included. No matter which you choose you will be rewarded with solid tracks. The English track is my preferred track since it features Savalas's original voice.

Each cut of the film is accompanied with their own audio commentary tracks. On Lisa and the devil were treated to a Tim Lucas commentary which is dry but very informative. More interesting is the commentary on House of Exorcism. Which features producer Alfred Leone and star Elke Sommer, both have a blast reminiscing over the production and hearing Leone discuss the troubles with the film is interesting.

“The Exorcism of Lisa” is a worth while 25 minute documentary that discusses the differences between the two cuts of the film.

Next up are a few trailers and a radio spot for the film. Also included is an extended 3 minute sex scene and rounding out the extras are two Alan Jones introductions. One for each cut of the film.

Also to be included as per usual with Arrow is reversible cover art, collectors booklet and mini-poster.

Lisa and the Devil is classic Mario Bava. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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